After arriving in Hong Kong as our first destination on our second stint of flash-packing, I got to reminiscing about our first destination last time out.
“Where’s the rest of it”
My first thoughts as we entered our boutique hotel room in Singapore almost 3 months ago. I was lead to believe that hotel rooms in Asia had a reputation for their paltry size, so we splashed out a little bit extra hoping for a smidge more room to ease us into our backpacking trip. With only enough floor space to lay our bags down and create a slight obstacle course at the same time, capacious was not what we ended up with. The extra money was obviously for the ingenious and innovative design of the hotel room. The make your own assault course created with your luggage in the miniscule amount of free room and the creative sink in the shower, a space saving revolution. It doesn’t matter, I stayed positive, we will never be in here. And we weren’t.
The startlingly clean city screamed of pride, bread by a firm hand and a fine book. Our first taxi driver pointed out each interesting building and fascinating monument, an impromptu tour emerged, sensing nothing but pleasure to boast about his wonderful home. This allowed for accessibility and handed us an invitation to explore the limits of the city. Feeling wrapped in cotton wool, we were safe to wander into buildings that seemed private, once allowing ourselves a free view of the city from a private hotel restaurant on the 60-something floor.
It took a while for us to slip our adventure boots on to find the true cuisine of Singapore. Initially, dining at a restaurant adorning the Singapore River, and although quite amazing with spectacular view, I only felt the holiday sense of experience. In time we found local Hawker Centres, where fresh food was cooked in front of you for pocket change. Delicious food, taking me on a journey that made me feel like I had taken a step closer to the traveling experience you imagine. What’s next? Chickens feet? Snake? Dog? I felt ready for anything and everything, but sensibly called it a night with a few cold beers.
The tourism ensued with a visit to the world’s largest aquarium. Still feeling like a tourist and not a traveller, we explored the aquarium, tolerating the never-ending stream of babbling children and the parents, exercising very little control of their offspring. At the mid point of a horse shoe design layout, we stood slack jawed at the main event. A panoramic marine vista looking over us, coupled with a magical soundtrack fitting of a Tim Burton movie, it entranced the onlookers. I can safely say that if I ever encounter an alien species, I will not be shocked by any appearance, as our oceans truly hold a plethora of diverse creatures, the likes of which I couldn’t begin to describe.
My ignorance was again on display as brandishing a Buddha tattoo, we visited a sacred Buddhist relic. What did I know of this faith I had so easily etched permanently into my skin? Fuck all is the answer. The romanticised way of living in peace was all I knew, and quite incorrectly and naïvely assumed this was the crux of a religion which millions of followers worldwide follow. I felt a phony and a fraud, but vowed to expand my very limited and honestly embarrassing knowledge of this faith I was advocating with my body art.
On our final full day we visited the memorial museum of Changi prison, a place close to our hearts as Holly’s Granddad, Thor, had been a prison of war there during the Second World War. A harrowing audio tour slammed us to earth with an instant feeling of remorse and sorrow. As we progressed through, you understand that you could never fully appreciate what those unfortunate enough to be here must have been through. Your own life flashes before you and the simplest comforts of home seem extravagant. Lucky and blessed is a feeling which is often overlooked by most of us, but here, hitting home more than ever.
To cheer us up we treated ourselves to an extortionately priced Singapore Slinger at Raffles Hotel where this drink was apparently invented. We left $30 poorer and headed for our travelers banquet at the Hawker. The last night was the first encounter with an experience that would leave me in astonishment and wonder. We took a trip to the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel, which consisted of a boat perched atop three towers. As if the spectacular architecture of this shopping casino holiday complex wasn’t enough, we experienced the cities skyline in the most suited night time setting. With the clouds dispersed for the evening, and a handful of diamonds in the black ocean of the night, we were allowed a spectacular sight. With all the buildings office lights glowing as if by design, they provided the perfect scene, our trip to this wonderful city was complete. You would forgive yourself for forgetting this was financial district and the beauty with an almost artistic feel had you wholly believe it was more than that.
Well on our way to becoming a budget traveling force, we left Singapore with a heavy heart, and memories as bright as the famous night skyline.